Across the Bridge

Mavis Llant, Author, Mavis Gallant, Author Random House (NY) $19 (198p) ISBN 978-0-679-42213-6
The 11 stories in this collection demonstrate Gallant's capacious knowledge of human nature, refracted through her ironic views of the battle of the sexes and of the conflict between generations. Penetrating and insightful, these tales reflect the sensibilities of conservative Catholic Montrealers and Parisians coping with the crises of modern life. The husbands and fathers portrayed here prefer their women placid, pretty and without intellectual ambition. And with few exceptions the women are compliant, either out of a general inbred dreaminess or a pathetic lack of opportunity or gumption. The most captivating characters are women who evade this fate. Berthe Carette, whose family is the subject of four interlocked stories, defies the church, remains unwed and independent and sleeps with married men. (Her purposefully helpless, blandly demanding sister Marie also gets her own way, however.) Bright, perceptive Nora Abbott, the teenaged protagonist of ``The Fenton Child,'' cleverly deals with the Montreal-Anglo disdain of French-speaking natives, and also learns how to handle her scheming father. The French heroine of the title story, romantic, naive Sylvie, regrets her moment of rebellion until she finds the ``true life that was almost ready to let me in.'' Gallant's sharp tongue cuts through churchly cant, moral hypocrisy and the myth of male superiority; her finely honed prose captures the small details that illuminate a life. This collection will add to her deserved reputation as a superb practitioner of her craft. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
Genre: Fiction
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